Make sure safety is an ingredient when cooking

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries in the United States, mostly from the ignition of food or other cooking materials, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

The majority of those incidents occur when the cooking is unattended. Those alarming statistics has prompted the NFPA to theme 2020 Fire Prevention Week, “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!” This year’s observance of the annual nationwide campaign started Sunday and runs through Saturday.

Almost half — 44 percent — of reported home fires start in the kitchen. With so many distractions such as cellphones and televisions, along with the more recently introduced task of helping children with their remote learning, it can be easy to get sidetracked when the stove or other cooking device is in use.

“We know cooking fires can be prevented,” stated Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice-president of outreach and advocacy, in a press release. “Staying in the kitchen, using a timer, and avoiding distractions such as electronics or TV are steps everyone can take to keep families safe in their homes.”

Among the safety tips offered by the NFPA are these rules of thumb:

• Never leave cooking food unattended. Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling. If you have to leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove.

• If you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.

• You have to be alert when cooking. You won’t be alert if you are sleepy, have taken medicine or drugs or consumed alcohol that makes you drowsy.

• Always keep an oven mitt and pan lid nearby when you’re cooking. If a small grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan to smother the flame. Turn off the burner and leave the pan covered until it is completely cool.

• Have a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

The NFPA has also posted helpful videos on its website, including one teaching children how to spot hazards in and around the kitchen and another that covers the important steps a home cook should take long before anyone enjoys the first bite.

The Hinsdale Fire Department typically invites the public to an open house and honors fallen firefighters in a silent parade during Fire Prevention Week. COVID-19 precautions snuffed out that tradition this year, but there are still ways to get the whole family involved the cause of fire safety.

A virtual open house video is avaialble on the fire department’s Facebook page, and the department is also offering a coloring contest and escape plan. Visit

Fire Chief John Giannelli said vigilance is essential to avoiding tragedy.

“With more residents cooking at home, the potential for home cooking fires will likely increase as well,” he said. “Keep a close eye on what you’re cooking; never leave cooking unattended; Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — at least three feet away from your stovetop. Be on alert.”